Rembrandt’s portrait of grief…

Rembrandt died on this day, 4th October, in 1669, aged 63.

This is one of the final works he created.

He’d been declared bankrupt, he’d lost his home and his wonderful collection of curiosities.
His beloved wife Saskia had died, along with three of their children in infancy.

Finally, Rembrandt was struck one last blow.

His only remaining child, his adored Titus, died aged 26 of the plague.

This is the work Rembrandt created in response to Titus’ death – ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’.

It would be easy to walk past this painting in a museum, or dismiss it as another ‘boring religious painting’ (how many times have I heard that phrase!). It is, after all, a very commonly depicted biblical parable.

But this is more than a biblical illustration. It’s personal. It’s a tender expression of paternal love. And it’s one of the most beautiful and expressive paintings of grief I have ever come across.

This is why Art History is important – it can unearth an artwork’s hidden depths.

It can help us to realise that despite living hundreds of years ago, we share the same emotions and concerns as our ancestors.

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